I can’t hear you.

Friday was a senior day at the BA community Center on Main.  Many companies wishing to make known to the hundreds of seniors leisurely strolling from one booth to another while passing by others, what they could do to help seniors. Senior living. Nursing homes. Independent living.  Hospice care. Medicare info. Yes, and funeral director and cremation services too. Not a fast food booth anywhere to be seen.  I stopped and had a conversation with a lady at a hearing aid booth. Told her of my predicament with inadequate ability to hear plainly as I had done for 60 some years previously. Even In situations where background noise was high, I could understand the person sitting across the booth. Now, you put me in a smallish room with cement walls and the voice sound bounces off the walls creating a double tone, an echo of sorts.  Now you put me in a restaurant where background noise is part of the atmosphere and it’s hard to understand a distinctive word said to me by a person leaning on my shoulder.

That’s my dilemma, I told her. “Ah, come on in and we’ll test your hearing”.

Sure. I’ve been through four or more of those tests of sitting inside a soundproof booth with earphones listening to a beep. All I must do is listen and press the button when I hear the beep. Wonderful. Ha, to me they’re useless. That’s what is used to program that tiny computer inside the tiny devise that sits behind my ear that has a tiny tube connecting to the microphone inserted into my ear.

Well, anyway, I’ve got an appointment set for the second week of May.

Our ears. What marvelous pieces of equipment they are. Two of them separated by a 7-inch skull. A sound enters the left ear at the same time a slightly different sound enters the right ear. Perhaps even somewhat similar to our two eyes being separated allowing us to view in 3-D.  The sounds enter the ear canal sending the waves to that drum that vibrates the waves on to another cavity over microscopic bones to the inner system which interprets the sound sending the info to the brain which let’s me know what you said. Holler out BOOM and the drum vibrates faster than the hairs on my head as I descend the ride on the roller coaster. Softly say my name and I suppose the drum barely vibrates.  Is the skin of the drum damaged? Or is it the inner system that interprets what the ears have transmitted damaged? Or, and yes, knowing me, is it the brain that is damaged by that last ride on the roller-coaster, by being hit by a baseball, by the loud noise of a rock band concert, by months of having my ears closely tuned into a radio intensely listening to the dots and dashes of Morse code, or is it the years of operating noisy equipment without ear protection? Hmm?

And our voices, what a distinctive sound we make with our tongues, lips and vocal cords. Our languages; so many there are. Thousands of different languages throughout the world and within each of those are very different dialects. Even here within this smallish town of Broken Arrow, there are many distinctively different dialects of American English, and yes, some too who have not learned enough English words to speak it understandably to a local. There you are in a crowded restaurant of peoples from similar or very distinct backgrounds most all speaking softly, some louder and more forceful unaware of disturbing the next booth of four just wanting to enjoy the fellowship over a nice dinner. The voices of all bouncing off the ceiling, the panels of smooth walls and glass windows, so I must carefully pick which one of those eating places to enjoy a conversation. Rush hour is for them, not me.

Imagine the vocal sounds of a German, a Frenchman, a Russian, a Chinese, a Scandinavian and a south American who have just learned to speak some English incorporating the homeland dialect into the Brooklyn dialect. Would you understand much, if any at all?

This post started with the idea of documenting my own inability to hear well enough to understand the words of someone sitting just a few feet away. My personal conclusion: to all of you with good ears, stay away from those loud in-door concerts, from most of the loud noises that have penetrated this world of secular sensuous arm waving happiness. In a stadium of 70,000 watching a ball game, bring some ear plugs to deafen the noise of the speakers yelling: “Make some Noise.”

Don’t forget nature. Take a walk through the woods. Listen to the waters of a stream, to the bristling of leaves. Tune your ears to hear the calling of a yellow finch, to the sound of butterfly wings, of a hummingbird, and, yes, even the thundering of a lightning strike. Sounds of nature will not hurt your ears but sounds of machinery will.

 

Author: Arnold Kropp

About the Author. Back in the days when I was a kid growing up in south Chicago, freely roaming around the neighborhood was common and just a part of life in the late 40's and early 50's. A train track was less than a mile away and a favorite place to walk along the rails. A large city park was a bit closer with areas of dense trees and areas of open grassy picnic grounds. A public golf course was just two blocks away, but the famed 4-lane busy Western avenue had to be crossed to get to it, and we crossed in the middle of the block running between the cars and trucks. We knew the risks. In the winters, we would climb that fence making our way to one of the ponds, we’d push and shovel away the snow and play a spontaneous game of hockey, or bring a sled and slide down the hillside ; no adults, no special padding, just a group of kids enjoying the contest. Dad was at work, mom was home tending to the washing and preparing the family meal for promptly at 6 pm. Life was good. It was fun. Sunday mornings were dress up in suit and tie, polished shoes for Sunday school and the worship service, then to a restaurant. Arnold went on to college immediately after high school, but could not find a subject, a major that was really up his alley, so he enlisted in the Army and served in Germany during the years the Berlin wall was built. Seeing what effects Soviet communism had on the people of East Germany left an impression on him. During those years, he would write many long letters home starting a desire to write more than just letters. Many years later Arnold developed a blog where he posted hundreds of articles on the political side of American life. Some of those are available in the collection named "Ramblings". Today, Society is totally different from that of the 50's, a whole lot different. Today, it has become scary to let the kids roam. Today it has become organized to the hilt with 2nd graders playing organized football. In my present relatively quiet neighborhood, I do see kids walking the streets, but there is a difference as the kids seem to be apprehensive and on guard or intently operating a telephone as they walk, not running after each other. Today, the above freedoms of the 50's are suspect and avoided as being dangerous activities. And that is sad. It's sad that today's kids do not have that freedom, and it may be having a direct effect on their development. Consider, one fact that is readily apparent today compared to yesterday; the preponderance of overweight and obese kids, even pre-school kids are heavier than we were, and this has to be affecting the rest of their daily lives. No doubt about it. But, I'd better hush, can't talk about those things. Yes, in the 50’s there were Semi-trucks, public transportation, murders, rape, robberies, house fires, sickness and diseases resulting in death, and yes, there were deadly vehicle accidents too. There was even poverty and homosexuals too. We went to public schools, and the high school was integrated. This was Chicago, but those events did not make the headlines, as news was only broadcast at 6pm and possibly 10pm nightcap. Days of the cold war kept us together as a nation. We saw the "Victory at Sea" war clips before the main feature at the theaters. And now technology dominates life. A cell phone in every handy pocket posting selfies. A computer saving everything to one of those cumulous clouds. Room size TV’s broadcasting everything 24/7. This is more information than I want. Let me decide something. I think. therefore, I am. I was born a male, therefore I am. I was born-again, therefore I am. I have life within, therefore I am. The news is not my guide. The TV is not my Sheppard.

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